Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ownership Star Program and Holi - Festival of Colors


As stated in a previous blog post, we have been given the responsibility of helping the 160 children at Rising Star to feel responsibility and ownership of their things, their lives, and their futures.

Because the children live on Rising Star’s campus during the school year, they are split into groups of 20-25 and have a full time “housemother” or “housefather” that acts as their parents away from home.  The children are able to see their parents once a month on “Parents Day” and they also spend their holidays with their families in the leprosy colonies. 

To fulfill these responsibilities, we launched the “Ownership/Star Program”, modeled after the Eyre family program that Tal was involved in when he was young. This program gives the children the chance to earn a star a day for doing four household duties in the morning and four more duties in the evening.  These duties include getting up on time, finishing homework, washing clothes, brushing teeth and obeying their housemother/housefather. 

The children have learned that they must behave in order to get a star at the end of the day.  As they accumulate stars, they can eventually purchase items in the Star Store that is open once a week. 

We set it up so that the children learn to earn their own things instead of getting free handouts. As it is with most of us, when we get anything for free, we don’t value it as much as the things we have worked for.

In the short time that we have been here, the children have shown us that they can improve their behavior during the day, accumulate stars, make purchases, and then take care of their purchases. It is something wonderful to see.

Below, Tal’s little sister Charity (on the left) and her friend Dani are helping to make the Star Program posters for  each room in the children’s hostel. These posters list the duties the children have to accomplish in the morning and evening in order to earn a star. The housemothers/father helped us with what these duties should consist of for each age group. In order to target each age group the duties vary slightly. Putting these posters together was a lot of work and we really appreciated Charity, Dani, and Sara’s work (and beautiful hand writing).


After the posters were completed, we placed them in each room where the kids would see what they needed to do daily in order to earn a star…


Charity then helped us make the first Star Banks.  The Star Bank comes into place at the end of the week when the children deposit their star earnings for the week. The banker (currently us) collects the cards and adds the points up for display at the Star Store.
This was fun to do with Charity because this whole system is modeled after the Eyre family economy/ownership system that also used cards or “slips” of paper that were deposited into a family “bank”.   


Sadly, Charity, Dani and Sara had to get back to the US, so we carried on our work without them.  They are still talked about around here as some of the best volunteers at Rising Star…


So, after the first week of the program, we went around to the different rooms of the hostel and helped the children deposit their cards into the Star Bank.  This was a great teaching moment because we were able to congratulate each child and ask them what they can do next week to get more stars.  The children have loved the whole system of earning stars and and are constantly telling us, with pride, how many stars they have earned during the week.




The Star Store got its current inventory mostly from Sarah’s mother, Janet or “Mimi” (on the right) who brought a ton of toys to Rising Star during her visit a few weeks ago. She was nice enough to donate them all to the store so that the kids could earn them in stead of getting free hand-outs. This is fantastic because up until now the children would get all these items for free from all the visitors without appreciating their value or really taking care of them. 


We set up the store with labeled index cards that tell the children how many stars each item costs. Below you can see mostly school supplies or coloring items.


Kristen, a fellow volunteer, helped us open the store and in the below picture she is showing the very popular “magic wand” which costs 10 stars. As you can see, the children are very attentive. Anita is the strict cashier and had to block the children from possibly entering the store on their own (see below). Once the children have selected an item for purchase, they need to pass by the cashier where their spending is noted.


It is so fun to see the expressions on the children’s faces when they look at the items in the store…


Below is a princess suitcase that is a big hit with the girls.  It is one of the most expensive items, so many girls are proudly saving stars for it. As you can see Tal, once a salesman always a salesman, is doing an amazing job getting the children excited about different items.  Also, take a look at Anita’s stern arm (lower left side) keeping the kids out of the store area. 


As part of the process, the children are learning how to “spend or save” and it is so interesting to see their thought processes. The big ticket items are either a really nice toy or a trip to eat ice cream in a nearby village. The biggest item is a trip to Chengelput, a town about 45 minutes away, to eat out at a restaurant and do some light shopping. This kind of treatment is a first at Rising Star and you will see on the picture below that some of the boys are curbing their immediate desire to save for a more expensive item.

It is exciting to see how they are learning the concept of immediate or delayed gratification and its consequences. We can see that these current experiences will help them later on in life with real money.



Holi – the Festival of Colors

On the first of March, Rising Star Outreach, as the rest of India, celebrated Holi. It was a day that will be remembered by all…Before we go into the details, we want to share a little background on Holi that we found on Wikipedia.

“Holi, also called the Festival of Colors, is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and countries with large Indian diaspora populations, such as Suriname, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, UK, USA, Mauritius, and Fiji.

The main day, Holi, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other. Bonfires are lit  the day before in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when demoness Holika carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt, but Prahlad escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion to the god Vishnu. Vishnu is the one of the supreme gods in the Hindu faith and is known as the preserver of good. This story then signifies the triumph of good over evil, and the death of Holika is celebrated as Holi. Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March).”

So we got all of the children that wanted to participate onto the field and started giving them small amounts of paint powder… things soon got crazy…


I think Tal is telling a little guy (rather firmly) that he can’t take the paint from Tal’s pocket and that he needs to wait for his turn. 


They all wanted as much paint as they could get their hands on… All Anita remembers hearing is “Auntie! Auntie!” and lots of cute little hands coming her direction. We had to make sure that the little kids got their turn as well, since their hands could not reach as high.

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The kids had so much fun! 

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Fun was had by all…

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We made it back to the Volunteer Hostel in one piece! It took two washings (clothes and us) to get all the paint off. And we were only handing out the paint!  Okay, we may have thrown a little… and received a little…


Many more stories to be shared in the future!